We have a core value at one of the nonprofits I lead – empowerment at every level. Simply put, this means that empowerment isn’t just the responsibility of the CEO or the manager. In many organizations, empowerment flows in one direction. The boss gives an employee the power needed to complete a task, and the employee uses that power to get the job done. The problem with this way of thinking is that it limits the power of empowerment.
Great leaders make the decision to elevate empowerment from managerial action to organizational culture. Empowerment moves from being a task to a value. This means that the CEO empowers his managers so they can empower their teams. It means that managers empower their teams so they can empower their customers. It means that managers and teams are actively looking for ways to empower the CEO. This is what I call the empowerment loop. When empowerment is a core organizational value, then it happens on every level and in every direction.
The result of the empowerment loop is powerful. Organizations who value empowerment have capable leadership happening at every level. These organizations operate with greater efficiency, and have the ability to respond quickly to both opportunities and threats.
So here’s the question – why doesn’t everyone do it? The answer isn’t pretty. When leaders choose not to create an empowering culture, it is because of fear. A fearful leader will not want to risk the loss of power and control. Fearful leaders view the success of others as a threat to their position. The world is full of leaders who sacrifice organizational greatness simply because they live with a scarcity mentality.
So here’s my challenge today: face that fear and rise above it. Be honest about your fear…because all leaders face it at some point. But while you are being honest, take an honest look at your organization. Is it everything you want it to be? Do you have the leaders around you that you need to be successful? A quick study of leadership will show that those who choose to empower others will find more success today, and they will create powerful legacies that last long after they are gone.